Cold Weather Antidote: Longwood’s Orchids

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Longwood East conservatoryFor Longwood Garden’s Orchid Extravaganza, the East Conservatory is filled with yellows, blues, creams, and whites—one of my favorite color combinations.

Before I get to my cold weather antidote, I want to mention another upcoming breath of spring:  The Philadelphia Flower Show, the largest indoor flower show in the world.  The theme this year is “Brilliant”, a tribute to the majestic culture and creative gardening tradition of Great Britain.  It runs from March 2 through March 10 at the Philadelphia Convention Center.  I will be giving a presentation on Sunday, March 3, at 5:00 pm in the Gardener’s Studio on “Hellebores for Your Garden: Selection, Maintenance, and Division”—don’t miss it!

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'
‘Jelena’ witch hazel outside the Longwood Cafe.  I highly recommend eating there when you visit.  The food is very good, especially the local mushroom soup, and in the winter you can sit by a fire.


Hamamelis x intermedia 'Luna'‘Luna’ witch hazel also outside the cafe.

On a recent Friday, my husband and I were suffering from cabin fever and decided to visit Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, US.  For 2012 to 2013, I have been writing posts every couple of months about Longwood (last year I choose Chanticleer), and I will provide links to my posts at the end.  Usually we walk around outside, but it was cold, overcast, and raining so we opted to explore The Orchid Extravaganza in the conservatories instead.  I did photograph some token but gorgeous witch hazels on our mad dash for the cafe, and I have included their photos above to show what braver souls were viewing.

Longwood East ConservatoryThese lovely arrangements of moth orchids greet you as you come through the main entrance into the East Conservatory.


I am not an orchid lover and really know little about them.  But I knew that if Longwood did orchids, they would surpass my wildest expectations, and they did.  Orchids are an over-the-top plant perfect for an over-the-top display, and Longwood is the perfect place to view them.  Longwood has 9,000 orchids in its collection and used 5,000 plants, representing 2,300 species and cultivars, to decorate its four acres of conservatories for the current display.  Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe it so I will have to use photographs, beginning with more of the East Conservatory:

Longwood East ConservatoryWhen we entered, a bride and groom were having their wedding pictures taken.


Longwood East Conservatory.

Longwood East Conservatory.

Longwood East Conservatory


Longwood Velvet Groundsel & Flowering-bush PlectranthusThe yellow-flowered plant on the left is velvet groundsel and the blue on the right is flowering-bush plectranthus.  


Longwood East Conservatory.

Longwood East ConservatoryLooking back down the East Conservatory towards the main entrance.


Longwood orchid orbThis orchid orb, at the far end of the East Conservatory, contains 160 0rchids and weighs 200 pounds.  The custom metal frame was constructed by Longwood craftspeople.


Longwood orchid orbA close up of the orb.

From the East Conservatory we entered the Exhibition Hall with its sunken and flooded marble floor surrounded by tree ferns:

Longwood Exhibition HallAbove the Exhibition Hall hangs an “orchid chandelier” featuring over 100 yellow Cymbidium orchids, 200 white Phalaenopsis orchids, and Algerian ivy.


Longwood Exhibition Hall.

DSCN9176This 13′ tall arch at the other end of the Exhibition Hall is composed of 800 yellow Phalaenopsis orchids and is much prettier in person.

The third huge room in the conservatories is called the Orangery and features colorful displays of a wide range of unusual plants:

Longwood Orangery

Florist’s cyclamen, tulips, and oriental hybrid lilies underplant bronze-leaved clerodendrum.


Longwood OrangeryVine-covered pillars line the walk around the edge of the Orangery.


Longwood Orangery.

Longwood OrangeryI was particularly taken with this combination of ‘Tete-a-Tete’ narcissus, orange mother-of-thousands, ferns, and orange roses.

No matter what time of year you visit the conservatories, between 200 and 500 orchids are on display in the Orchid House.  The orchids residing there during this special show are the cream of the crop.  I have diligently copied the names off the tags because I know a lot of readers are orchid fans.  But beware, my career as a recorder at the Philadelphia Flower Show receiving the orchid entries was short-lived after trying to deal with their confusing names.  

orchid x Laeliocattleya g. (unnamed) x Laeliocattleya g. (unnamed)


orchid no labelOne of my favorites but there was no label.


Schomburgkia undulataSchomburgkia undulata


x Sophrolaeliocattleya Rosemary Clooney 'Wanre'x Sophrolaeliocattleya Rosemary Clooney ‘Wanre’


Miltoniopsis Mary SugiyamaMiltoniopsis Mary Sugiyama


x Beallara Pluto's Drummer 'Pacific Pink'x Beallara Pluto’s Drummer ‘Pacific Pink’


x Sophrolaeliocattleya g. Jewel Box 'Dark Waters'x Sophrolaeliocattleya g. Jewel Box ‘Dark Waters’


Dendrobium Oriental Smile 'Fantasy'Dendrobium Oriental Smile ‘Fantasy’

Orchids are beautifully incorporated into most of the many gardens in the West Conservatory Complex.  Here are a few of my favorite combinations, but it is well worth a walk through the whole area:

x Bratonia Kauai's ChoiceDozens of this eye-catching orchid, x Bratonia Kauai’s Choice, surround the waterfall in the Cascade Garden designed by Roberto Burle Marx.


Orchids with Calathea lancifolia, prayer plantIn the Tropical Terrace, white orchids are planted among this striking prayer plant, Calathea lancifolia.


Orchids with 'Moonlight Bay' aglaonema & 'Lutea' elephant's-ear plantAlso in the Tropical Terrace, yellow orchids with ‘Moonlight Bay’ aglaonema and ‘Lutea’ elephant’s-ear plant.

Despite all the grandeur of the big orchid displays, my favorite orchid presentations are found in some of the smaller and narrower gardens.   Perfect specimens from the same orchid family but in varying colors are displayed in containers like majestic houseplants.  If I had orchids this is how I would want to present them:

Lady's Slipper OrchidsA small garden, called the Garden Path, on the left side of the East Conservatory was lined with moss planters of lady’s slipper orchids.


Lady's Slipper Orchid.

Lady's Slipper Orchid


Dancing Ladies OrchidsAlong the Acacia Passage are ceramic containers of dancing ladies orchids.


Reed-Stem orchidsPots of reed-stem orchids line the Fern Passage.


Reed-Stem orchidsreed-stem orchid

The Longwood Orchid Extravaganza runs through March 24.  If you are coming, check the website because there are lots of special events scheduled.  If you are not in the area, I hope you have enjoyed your virtual tour.

To read more about Longwood Gardens, follow these links:

Groundcovers, Thinking Outside the Box

Longwood Gardens Part 2: At Night

A Longwood New Year’s Eve


I am linking this post to Les’s blog A Tidewater Garden for his annual winter walk-off where bloggers show photos from a winter trip where they did a lot of walking.  Since my husband and I walked Longwood’s conservatories for two hours, Les tells me that this post qualifies.  Follow the link to see Les’s professional quality photos and where other bloggers took their walk.


Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US, zone 6b.  The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings:  We are now accepting reservations for our very popular Hellebore Seminars to be held on Friday, March 15 (only 3 spaces left) at 1:30 pm and Monday, March 18, at 10:00 am.  For details, click here.  The 2013 Snowdrop Catalogue is on the sidebar of the website and orders are being accepted now.  To view the catalogue, click here.  The 2013 General Catalogue is available here.

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post.  You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

38 Responses to “Cold Weather Antidote: Longwood’s Orchids”

  1. What a lovely place to go to, to escape from the cold! Orchids are such fantastic flowers and they all look so beautiful in your photos. I have just two, one very similar to the white one you showed, and am so pleased that I have now managed to get them into flower for the past 3 years. Many thanks for the virtual trip!

    • Pauline, That is an accomplishment. I received an orchid as a gift. It bloomed for 1 1/2 years and then when it didn’t send up any more bloom stalks, I am embarrassed to admit that I composted it. I am not a keeper of houseplants these days. Carolyn

  2. Thanks for the virtual tour – they are truly a lovely sight! I visited Longwood Gardens the end of October 2012 and had so many photos that we had to post at least a dozen times to show just a fraction of the beauties inside the convervatories. (It was cold then too and a bit too cold for doing a full outside tour.) Come see our photos of the orchids at We also have orchid posts from Longwood that includes interesting facts about orchids and about growing them at home. Thanks for your beautiful shots!

    • Shenandoah, This post took me much longer than usual to compose because I took so many photos that I wanted to include but had to select only a few. I think one orchid post is enough for my blog since I don’t know anything about orchids. Glad that readers can get more information on your blog. Carolyn

  3. Love your Orchid photos! I’ll be visiting Longwood and then the Philly flower show on either the 2nd or 3rd, after a day at Plant Delights Nursery Open House on friday the 1st! Perhaps I’ll still be in Philly long enough to attend your lecture!

    • Amy, I am so glad you will make it to Longwood. The weather might be nice enough to spend significant amounts of time inside and then walking around outside. Things in my garden are popping. You will love the flower show too. It should be a good year to get ideas for home gardens with the focus on England. However, it is important to remember that it is meant to be a spectacle. Please say hello if you are there for my presentation. You have a lot of driving ahead of you but some fun places to visit. Carolyn

  4. Carolyn, you are absolutely right. Longwood’s has done orchid display like no other I have seen. The design is so spectacular in abundance and form. I really wish I could have seen this. I am glad you took so many photos, I really enjoyed your tour.

    • Donna, You are another reader whom I knew loved orchids. I am so sorry we didn’t plan for you to go to this show when you were here. I had never been before and it was off my radar screen. Now I am going to make it a yearly event on my calendar. It is just the perfect time of year to visit the Longwood conservatories. Carolyn

  5. This post is nothing short of spectacular Carolyn! Thank you for sharing. I have never been to Longwood and would like to get there at some point. It was good to see such a nice plant of Jelena as well… mine seems to be a slow grower but does bloom. Of course I love orchids also but recently decided the house was too full of them and my orchid case was way to large… i dismantled it, nearly killing myself in the process since it weighed a few hundred pounds, being bound in solid white oak. I ended up with an 8″ strip smashed out of one of my windsor style armchairs and me with the left side of my chest black and blue, having missed my pacemaker by an inch. Best stick with the outside gardening… for me it’s safer! Have a great week … I’m sure your presentation will be very interesting and inspiring! Larry

  6. Thank for sharing about your visits Longwood! Simply Gorgeous!

    • Bernie, I believe that Longwood does this every year, but I had never been because I am not really excited about orchids. However, just the breath of sweet fragrance as we walked into the conservatories was worth the whole trip at this time of year. Carolyn

  7. I like the lady’s slippers best, but the Miltoniopsis is certainly eye-catching. I saw one yesterday at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is also offering an orchid show. Sorry I will miss you at the Philly FS. I’ll be there for the early media events, but depart midday Saturday.

  8. Carolyn you got my garden thumb itching….I just was mentioning to my husband that I want to go to Longwood and the Philly Garden Show next year after I retire. I hope it will happen but I know it will in the next couple of years…just like I will finally get down to see you 🙂

  9. Simply spectacular! I love the yellow and blue color scheme, and thank you for saving me the trouble of having to ask the name of the plectranthus. This looks like it was gloriously over the top.

  10. The orchids are beautiful; what a great antidote for cabin fever! I’m happy to hear that your flower show talk is on Sunday; if I manage to get to the flower show this year, that will be the day I go — so don’t be surprised if I show up at your talk.

  11. Orchids are so exotic and marvelous. I have three, none have bloomed for me…..oh well, I can enjoy photos like yours! One day I hope to see Longwood Gardens (and Chanticleer for that matter!) Great places.

  12. What a colorful post, it really does warms this gloomy winter day!

  13. As always, your photos are outstanding 🙂 I think I was at Longwood Gardens when I was a young child, accompanied by my parents! But not as an adult…and I need to remedy that. My master gardener group is taking a trip to the Phila Flower Show on Wednesday…I am not able to go though. Even if I did, I would miss your talk so maybe another year I will get there as well.

  14. What a fabulous display of orchids! Another dreary day here, though spring is definitely arriving. It is inspiring to see such wonderful flowers. I love the lady slippers in the mossy planters, as well as Pluto’s Drummer ‘Pacific Pink’. I can almost see a little exotic drummer in that one!

  15. What a fabulous post, I almost felt as if I was there, and I know what orchids in that amount smell like – absolutely divine! I went to Kew Garden’s orchid exhibition here in London two years in a row, in 2004 and 2005, very similar, and yet very different. From your photos I think I like Longwood Gardens exhibition better, as they seem to use many other plants in between the orchids, to great effect. The orchid exhibition at Kew Gardens were more like bombarding you with thousands upon thousands of orchids in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours, with not much else than some green plants in between. Don’t get me wrong, I love orchids, and have a few at home too, but I think the planting scheme they have chosen at Longwood Gardens was brilliant. I have quite a few pictures from the orchid exhibitions in my book from Kew Gardens. Thanks for taking me with you on the virtual trip!

    • Helene, I quite agree with you. The orchids were incorporated through out the plantings in the four acres of conservatories. The only place they were shown by themselves was in the relatively small Orchid House where a selection of orchids is on display all year round. The pots of orchids that I so admired were placed in among theme gardens of all kinds of other plants, quite beautiful. Carolyn

  16. Gorgeous place and the orchids exquisite. Thanks for taking us on this tour!

  17. Like you I’m not especially an orchid lover but I can appreciate their beauty especially from a snug conservatory!

    I have heard so much about Longwood but I had no idea the conservatories were like this. Outstanding – I must try and get a speaking engagement over that way so I can visit!

  18. Oh my…how breathtaking it all is. You had a lovely visit. I am taken by it all…so many orchids that look healthy and vibrant. Thank you, Carolyn, for sharing it all with us.

  19. Carolyn, what a fantastic post, and yes, no adjectives can tell us the story which these pictures do. Just starting to get that bit milder here motivating me in getting those Begonia tubers potted up.

  20. These are wonderful photos, Carolyn, some of the plant combinations are truly inspiring. The Philly flower show must be spectacular. All the very best with your presentation – I wish I could be there too.

  21. […] Cold Weather Antidote: Longwood’s Orchids ( […]

  22. Gorgeous and beautiful are such understatements. I loved going along on your walk. The photos are breathtaking and the background information was great. What an enjoyable post, you are so lucky to have such an outstanding community facility.

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